What really matters to Florida voters

With the GOP convention in full swing in Florida, we travel the I-4 corridor to see what really counts in the minds of locals.

Jeremy Hobson: Mitt Romney is scheduled to accept the GOP nomination for president tonight. It'll be the capstone for this week's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

Which brings us to our coverage of "The Real Economy" -- a look at the issues that matter most to voters this year.

We sent Marketplace's David Gura on a roadtrip down Interstate 4 in Florida. And he sent this report from the coastal town of New Smyrna Beach.


David Gura: This is a really charming town. Kind of "Old Florida." There's a busy historic district, around Canal Street, with small shops and restaurants.

Joan Westhrin: Geographically, I don't think it has grown a lot, because we are bounded by the ocean on the East.

I meet Joan Westhrin at the New Smyrna Museum of history. She is a lifelong Republican, who moved here in 1968.

Westhrin: Most of us, if you've come from some other part of the United States, and you love this community, you don't want it to grow. You want to keep it compact. And that's really what the city has done.

Another volunteer, David Miner, chimes in:

David Miner: I would say New Smyrna is thriving.

That's been good news for Roger Kincaid. He's sold real estate here for a decade. And he says the market here is turning around. Sales are up eight percent this year.

Roger Kincaid: Probably three out of five deals I do right now are cash, and if the banks would just loosen up, and let people take advantage of that low interest rate, and take off a few of the little handcuffs that they've got them cuffed up with, it would be a great time.

Joan Westhrin told me that, one reason she thinks the community has done OK, is there are a lot of retirees like her, living here on fixed incomes. But if you're not retired, this place is different.

Farther up Canal Street, I meet Joy Trebalo. She grew up in New Smyrna Beach, and moved back here two years ago. She used to be a child life specialist, but she says there isn't much demand for that type of work here.

Joy Trebalo: You know, I have lots of degrees, and have done lots of different things, but choose to stay in this area to care for my mom, who is elderly and not well, and finding something I am qualified to do, and passionate and suited to do, has just been impossible.

So, Trebalo works as a receptionist. She answers the phone for a financial adviser on Canal Street. The work is not bad, she tells me. She likes her boss and the customers.

Trebalo: You know, I just immediately started doing whatever I could find, just to generate money. But you know, it is a low-paying job. It is nothing near what you need to survive financially.

The economy weighs heavily on her mind, ahead of the election. And Trebalo says President Obama has had his chance to turn things around.

Trebalo: I think we do not have the jobs we need. I think our economy has just kind of gone down the tube. I'm not saying it's all his fault, but I do not think he has the honest leadership and guts to do what is right.

Trebalo didn't vote for President Obama in 2008, and she says not going to vote for him this November. The current administration, she tells me, has failed.

In New Smyrna Beach Florida, I'm David Gura, for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...